Period drama ‘Always on the Move’ moves millions with cherished memories, positive values
Published: Feb 25, 2024 10:20 PM
Poster of the TV series Always on The Move Photo: Courtesy of iQiyi

Poster of the TV series Always on the Move Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI

My first memory about trains was bitter, noisy and exciting as a 6-year-old boy guarded by his father as we were pushed forward along with the flow of people toward the platform in the late 1990s. A recent popular Chinese period drama centers on millions of people traveling back home during this period of fast development with touching stories taking place on trains, from old steam trains to the latest high-speed bullet trains. This "train of time" shuttles along the railway, reflecting the country's rapid development and the great changes in people's lives.

Always on the Move, airing on China's Central TV and streaming giant iQIYI, has proven itself with high ratings and steady scores on Chinese rating sites, showing the market performance and audience recognition for this series. Why are viewers tuning in? What magic has made it a must-see program during the Spring Festival, a time when Chinese families reunite?

This grand and detailed panorama of China's great changes slowly expands with stories spanning 40 years. The time from 1978 to 2018 is when our country went through its reform and opening-up. It is also the time when trains crossed from the steam locomotives and the internal combustion locomotive to the high-speed trains and bullet trains. Just like the show's screenwriter Gao Mantang said: "Forty years is a carriage of stories!"

The show follows two storylines, one taking place along the railway line, while the other unfolds at the compound where the characters live. Various objects depicting the times, regional characteristics, heartwarming moments and different lifestyles can be seen everywhere, making the plot both compact and full of tension. 

Always on the Move not only has the warmth and close people ties seen in hit series like A Lifelong Journey, but also integrates multiple elements such as suspense, romance and comedy to make the series more colorful and satisfying for different audience groups. 

However, its core still focuses on the emotional exchanges between characters and the evolution of social relationships to convey positive values and ways of thinking, such as loyalty, responsibility and other themes.

The duo of railway police officer Wang Xin (played by Bai Jingting) and Ma Kui (Ding Yongdai) are the core characters of the series as they are the witnesses of time and are also guardians traveling on this road. Like us, they are two ordinary people working hard in a down-to-earth manner and living average lives.  

What we see is not only their responsible actions and strong hearts, but also their love and persistence in serving the people. Through a delicate perspective that is close to ordinary people and life, the series uses the "ordinary" to witness the "extraordinary," amplifying and conveying the consistent tenacity and warm power of the average person in the great era.

Injecting development concepts and positive values into the plot and spiritual core, gives the show a newer and deeper connotation, and it tells more about the changes of the times from the perspective of small potatoes, making it easier for the audience to resonate with the show. 

Meanwhile, the series also recreates the vitality of the black soil of Northeast China at that time for the younger generation. As the Chinese saying goes, "Each place has its own way of supporting its own inhabitants," traditional Chinese culture has always paid attention to the meaning and value of geography, and has propogated it through films and TV series.

Films and TV series that portray ordinary people's joys, anger and happiness have the spiritual power to transcend time and space because they truthfully reflect the voices of everyday people in different eras and become high-quality works. 

It was hard for a 6-year-old boy to understand why so many people were so eager to squeeze into trains that were already so crowded. He would only come to understand it after experiencing the achievements made by China's reform and opening-up in the past decades. It is the yearning and pursuit of a better life that encourages people to chase for further development.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.